Republican State Senate District 48 candidate Matt Reeves joins host Rico Figliolini on Peachtree Corners Life podcast to discuss COVID-19, the Governor’s response, mask-wearing, social justice, police reforms, Black Lives Matters, kids going back to school, education funding, state ethics and why he’s running for the State Senate.
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:02:16] – About Matt
[00:07:01] – Thoughts on COVID
[00:13:26] – Education Issues
[00:16:31] – Budget Cuts
[00:18:55] – Black Lives Matter, Immigrants, and Minorities
[00:26:55] – Police Force
[00:32:47] – Term Limits
[00:34:55] – Ethics in Government
[00:38:38] – Closing
Social Media: @MattReevesGA
“We all chose this area because of the strong schools, jobs, safe communities, good health care. And I want to make sure that all those quality of life pillars of our community are strong going forward.”Matt Reeves
Recorded socially safe online and in the City of Peachtree Corners, Georgia
Rico: [00:00:30] Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini host of Peachtree Corners Life. And, I appreciate you coming to the show. We’re doing this socially safe in the city of Peachtree Corners. And before we get to our guest, who’s on screen. Matt Reeves. Hey Matt, how are you?
Matt: [00:00:45] Hello.
Rico: [00:00:46] I’ll introduce him and go in to introduce himself. But first, before we get into that, I want to just talk about our lead sponsor, Hargray Fiber. They’re a Southeastern company that does fiber optics for the business community and for consumers. But the fiber side of it is delivering the type of speed and services necessary for small businesses and large businesses, enterprise businesses, to do their work in this teleworking environment, during the COVID-19. And hopefully, and providing services, unlike the cable companies. Really they’re right there community and they’re providing a lot of things in the community. They are very involved in every community they’re in, whether it’s Savannah, Peachtree Corners, Macon Georgia all over the Southeast, Tallahassee, Florida, they are there. So visit HargrayFiber.com or Hargray.com/business to find out how you can work your smart office and work with them. So now that we’ve done that, I want to tell you that we’re going to be discussing a lot of issues over the next 30 to 40 minutes with Republican State Senate candidate, Matt Reeves. We’re going to be discussing issues of the day; COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, state ethics, term limits, all sorts of things. We’re going to be going back and forth on this, but before we get into all that, I’d like to have Matt introduce himself and tell us why we should be listening to him as a candidate for State Senate.
Matt: [00:02:16] Thanks Rico and great to connect with folks in the audience from Peachtree Corners. Definitely want to be a great advocate for Peachtree Corners in Gwinnett County, in North Bolton, in the States Senate. My name is Matt Reeves. I’m a resident of Duluth for the last 17 years. So I live right next door in Gwinnett County. I have practiced law business and real estate litigation at Anderson St. Cornwall firm for about 17 years. I went to university of Georgia law school before that, and then Mercer undergrad to college before that. My wife Suzette and I, and our three kids who are eleventh grade, eighth grade and fifth grade. Live in the Duluth, we’re active in the community. And I just want to serve our community and keep the quality of life strong in Peachtree Corners, Duluth, Swanee, Lawrenceville, Johns Creek, part of Alpharetta, part of Norcross, for the next generation. We all chose this area because of the strong schools, jobs, safe communities, good health care. And I want to make sure that all those quality of life pillars of our community are strong going forward. The State Senate has 35 Republicans and 21 Democrats. I’m reaching out to independents, to centrist Democrats as well as Republicans, to be a good advocate for our community, because I believe I can get more done for Peachtree Corners in the State Senate on the Republican side of the aisle. I know there are a couple of issues, Rico that you’ve selected, but just, you know, one thing to know is, I spent some time at the Capitol years ago, was a lawyer for the house judiciary committee in 2008. I worked with Wendell Willer, who was the, one of the leaders on the new cities movement, which Peachtree corners benefited greatly from. Chairman Tom Rice was laying the
groundwork for the work in the legislature for Peachtree Corners as was Senator David Schaefer in 2008, when I was down there. Dunwoody was the city that was spearheaded during the session that I was down there. But, I got to see the early stages of Peachtree Corners. And over the last eight years, Peachtree Corners definitely has been a leader in our region, as a new city and I look forward to being an effective advocate and a bipartisan problem-solver on behalf of Peachtree Corners in the state Senate. And I hope to earn people’s support, in the community for this, competitive State Senate seat.
Rico: [00:04:32] Yeah, I’m glad you, you came on with me. I remember doing this from home. I think about two, two and a half years ago during the campaign in 2018, when you ran the first time. And that was, you know, during the, was it the blue wave, we shall say. Democrats coming into, house seats in positions. 2020 is a little different. You know, I don’t know if that, if that still will go on. So this is a proven, this is going to be a test, right. To some degree to see what the voters want. And so this is good way to be able to talk to you and, and see if, if your points of view is what the voters here want in 2020.
Matt: [00:05:12] And I, politics, and partisan politics, changes like the weather. I think what, folks in Peachtree Corners and Gwinnett County, what they ask is who can do the best job for them in this particular office. And, that’s what I’m focusing on in the States Senate race. Who can do the best job for Peachtree Corners in the State Senate seat for the benefit of our schools. The safety of our communities, transportation solutions, health care, the things that are important to us and make our communities strong. Who can be a better advocate in the State Senate. And, you know, David Shaffer was the president pro-tem of the Senate. He was number one out of 50 senators. The, the Democrat who won in 2018 got put on the agriculture committee, which is not exactly the kind of position Peachtree Corners wants to have down there in the Senate and then wait for higher office. And it’s an open seat again. So we get to make a choice about for the next two years, who can serve Peachtree Corners and tackle the issues that face our homeowners and, and, voters, families, and small businesses in Peachtree Corners and be a good advocate in this turbulent time where you’ve got, you know, COVID-19, you’ve got civil unrest. Who can lead the way and make sure Georgia remains number one in jobs, has increasing number of jobs with health insurance coverage. You know, there’s no government program any better for an adult then a job is. There’s no government program, any better for a child than a family is. I think state government ought to do a few things and do them well and keep a climate where we have, where we continue to be, attractive for employers and jobs so that, families can meet their, their needs and have their kids, getting educated and going to college and have a bright future in the job market. That’s my goal, in the State Senate.
Rico: [00:07:01] Yeah. And it’s interesting cause it’s, it is certainly a different look at it. More conservative, look at it. I do believe in personal responsibilities, but I also believe government is there to do certain things. Certainly I believe the federal government you’re spearheaded more than they have during the COVID-19 time. But you know, different points of views. And this is what this is about. An election in 2020, different than any other election in our history for a simple matter that lot of people may not be going to the polls in person, right? They’re going to
be mailed ballots. I mean, Georgia put out over 6 million absentee ballot requests forms, and over a million responded, more than any, you know, I think it was 10 to 12 times more than any other year in fact. So that may still happen November third. We may still end up doing that, seeing that happen because of COVID-19. So staying on the issue of COVID-19, do you think Governor Kemp has done the right job in, in, in the approach that he has done? Would you do anything different? Do you see the State Senate providing any other leadership in this from your point of view?
Matt: [00:08:09] Going forward, what, what I would do, as a State Senator is to make sure that the 95% or more of the population that has not directly encountered COVID, that they have their healthcare needs attended to without disruption. This has been an unexpected, invisible enemy that has attacked us. We’ve handled things on an urgent basis, but, it troubles me to see that a hundred percent of the resources in health care and in, you know, the government part of the government that deals with healthcare is devoted to COVID, when we got folks with diabetes, heart conditions, cancer, many other elective surgery. I talked to somebody this week who has had a thyroid procedure delayed since March, due to COVID issues. And I want to make sure that we definitely attack COVID to preserve lives and livelihoods, but also, make sure that healthcare needs for the other 95% of the population are attended to. And, you know, part of that is, making sure that we’re smart about how we open back up. You know, it sounds like right now, the thing that has gotten us up at the top in Gwinnett County, and then you look in Texas and Houston, we have a very, strong young population and, people like my mother-in-law and people, my age and older have heeded, the warnings. I’ve got my, I’ve got my UGA mask and you know, if I’m out in doors in public, I’ve got that mask on. My office has adopted a protocol from a local engineering firm that is working well here. We get the memo and the middle age and up here in Gwinnett County, but young people have, I think, too rapidly, disregarded social distancing and other health cautions for COVID. And also translating into multigenerational families, who, with English as a second language, I think that we need to do a better job of reaching out. Because both in Atlanta, as well as Houston and some other major Metro areas. Those are two areas, I heard Dr. Arona, the Gwinnett County and Rockdale and Newton health director, this, this week, mentioned that. That Wilburn and Norcross, the testing centers there, you see a lot of multigenerational families, with English as second language, getting hit hard by COVID. So we need to literally communicate in a credible and strong way, that’s easy to understand for our diverse population. I think that will turn the curve. You know, back in March and April the focus nationally and in Georgia was bending the curve. And we did that for a large portion of the population, but we are now a top 15 Metro area in the country. And Gwinnett County is leading Atlanta in cases because I think in large part of young people, as well as they…
Rico: [00:11:02] We’re a larger population. We’re a larger population too, right? The biggest County in the state. I mean, when I drive by CVS that’s right near here on certain days, there will be 15 cars wrapped around that building. So people doing the testing. We’re still some of the, some of the testing. It has to be referred testing it seems. So you have to be symptomatic to a degree. The doctor has to send you there. In some places you don’t have to be symptomatic.
Like Georgia Tech, Walgreens, I think will accept and do testing for you if you’re asymptomatic. You know, there’s that, but for a long time too, I know some of the cities that, it’s difficult to mandate a mask, I guess, right to some degree? Cause if you’ve mandated, you have to penalize it. If you’re not wearing it, right? Cause otherwise does that work or not? Now I’ve had the discussion with my son about this and he brings up a good point. He says, well, Yes. Sure. Do you cite people $50 or $75 for that ticket? Or does the governor mandate it and even if no one gets cited for it, right? There’s a different feel about being, saying that the mask is mandated and people will understand then maybe that they really do need to wear that mask. You know, so sometimes it’s perception, right? It’s the, the lens that you look through it. But we need to do something because it’s just not, I mean, I go out with the mask all the time, I guess I’m part of that demo.
Matt: [00:12:28] Well, and also COVID is an international crisis. And so not only do we have 50 States that we can learn healthcare and medical lessons from, but we have literally hundreds of countries who have approached the situation differently. And there are some success stories in Asia and other countries, South Korea, Japan. Also the US is one of the few countries that takes the summer off of school. And so, hitting in January and, and, ramping up and really reaching us in mass and March, now, and having six and seven months of experience internationally with COVID. I, you know, 95% of the parents locally want to get their kids back in school in person, but I think we can look around the world and see best practices on, getting kids and teachers safely returned to school.
Rico: [00:13:26] So what would, what would you do to do that? I know there’s a, you know, I have a 16 year old that wants, he wants to go back to school. He’s, he wants to be able to do an AP Calculus in person versus online, right? So there are kids that want to go back for social reasons also. How can we keep them safe then? Is there anything, how would your leadership change on that? You know, how do we put them back to school?
Matt: [00:13:51] Number one, I trust the locals. I think the local school boards and local school superintendents, can make decisions for the best interest of their teachers and students better than somebody in downtown Atlanta or Washington, DC can. And I think that North Fulton, which their biggest schools in North Fulton are, you know, 1,500 to 2,000 students. Where in Gwinnett we have the jumbo size high schools with closer to 3,000 or more students a lot of times. So every school system is different. I think that, we all listen closely to parents and, and in large numbers of students also, saying they want to get back in person. But there are some outliers where people want to do digital learning for health reasons or other reasons, or personal precaution reasons. So I think that we ought to give people choices whenever possible in this uncharted waters of COVID. But I think we need to do everything we can to get kids back to school safely, as well as teachers. And we need to look around the country. We need to look around the world about how other countries and other States have safely, had had, students returned to school. The toll on these young people’s education is high. And, we need to make sure that, the ground that was lost in March and April and May, that we make up for that and the kids don’t get behind. Because you know, there’s a digital divide in Gwinnett it’s discernible. A
lot of kids didn’t have the technology readily available when they got sent home, kids never logged in. Some of that is, support at home priority on education. Other, other, situation is it’s resources. But getting those kids’ attention back on their education is critical.
Rico: [00:15:33] So, so let me ask you this and then we’ll, and then I want to move on to another subject. But just to close this out a little bit, the budget, the state budget cut education. They cut a lot of things across the board, but it did cut education as part of it. Gwinnett County’s remaining, with its budget, I believe they’re not going to furlough people. They are mandating masks, so obviously they need to buy PPE stuff to be able to do that. Because some people may not have masks and some kids and families and stuff. They’re going to need those masks, right? So they’re mandating that for the Fall, if they actually open up. And they’re giving two choices, either you do online learning or you do in person learning. So it depends on how people want to choose that, or where they want to go. And if they can afford to do that. Like you said, people are going back to work to some degree, unless things get rolled back. So where do they send their kids while they working, right? Because the school works almost as a daycare in a way.
Matt: [00:16:31] Yeah.
Rico: [00:16:31] Kids in school during the time that adults are working and stuff. So, you know, the State cut that budget. I mean, would you have voted for that cut? Would you, what would you have done? How would you have affected that? How would you want to help school systems throughout the state because Gwinnett County is one that probably can afford to do some of this stuff, but there are other counties and other parts that might not be to do that same thing. So how would you, how would a Matt Reeves position be on some or something like that?
Matt: [00:17:02] Rico when times are tough and the revenue decreases in state government, it becomes all the more critical to have a strong advocate for your area down in the State Senate, because I was there in 2008 when revenue started to decline, as the great recession hit. And I saw what happens when you have limited resources, the ones who were effective advocates for their districts, or the areas of Georgia that are looked after well, at that point, that was towards the tail end of Governor Perdue’s time in office. So folks in middle Georgia, were well looked after. That’s where, Larry O’Neil was chairman of ways and means. He was literally Governor Perdue’s lawyer back, back home on personal matters. And so, in a competitive political landscape where we have, very strongly held feelings on national issues. I would ask folks in Peachtree Corners in Gwinnett County and North Fulton for this critical State Senate seat ask who can help our area the best in the State Senate, where it’s 35 Republicans, 21 Democrats. I want education money at a time when times are tough financially to go to Gwinnett County schools. If we have somebody who’s on the short end of a 35 to 21 vote, you’re going to have funds go to Cobb County, Forsyth County, Cherokee County, where folks are in the majority. I want to be a strong and effective advocate for North Fulton schools and Gwinnett schools in the State Senate. When, you know, there’s a saying, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the table. And, you know, we’re talking a lot about healthcare and, and, I want to be in the position of
getting resources and decisions and public policy made in favor of our Gwinnett and North Fulton schools, rather than having others make those decisions for the benefit of their own districts elsewhere.
Rico: [00:18:55] How do you, so, so let’s, and I appreciate that. And I think that the citizens of Peachtree Corners appreciates that point of view. They want their representatives to, you know, think big, broad, but they’re also local, right? Because we all, that’s why we have a representative there to be able to talk local and be able to help a city like ours or the area that you represent, Swanee and the other areas as well. But let’s change directions a little bit. Let’s talk about the other news because 2020 is just unusual for all sorts of reasons. So COVID-19 is one, but also the social unrest. Black lives matter, the, whole social justice, police violence against black community, people of black and brown color. It’s just been a tough situation, it’s been also a tough situation to speak honestly, a little bit about these things, because sometimes people can get shut down on both sides of it. Rather than being, allowed to be transparent and talk about issues, because it’s a sensitive issue. And, so I know people are out there saying, well, some people shouldn’t even talk about this issue because maybe they don’t have a, an experience in it. But I think we all need to talk about it right, culturally and for a variety of reasons. How do you feel about this issue? Where would, you know, what do you think the state Senate should do? What do you think your position on, on this should be? And where are you on the speed?
Matt: [00:20:24] Well, I learned a lot and I listened in the peaceful protest in Duluth. My wife Suzette and I went to that along with friends from a group of, city ministry team friends that we had through Perimeter church. There’s a group of pastors in Duluth called the Unite Churches, which is a culturally diverse group of pastors, African American, Asian, Latino, perimeter church, which is, you know, a growingly diverse church, but a lot of Caucasian people, there. But, we went to that peaceful protest, listened and learned a lot, and cared and expressed attention and concern, with this issue. Obviously what happened with George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, and others, it’s wrong. It’s tragic. It showed us that sometimes you can have a fatal and, and murder, actions by folks who wear a uniform. You know, the bill of rights, going back to our founding documents, half of the bill of rights dealt with the criminal justice and keeping government in check and serving the people. 99% of folks with a badge and law enforcement are good people who are serving the public. But there’s always a danger of disastrous consequences of folks in, in, with government power abusing that, particularly, with minorities and other people who are, you know, are helpless, and in custody and, you know, can’t breathe. And so, that hurts my heart. It’s something I want to do something about, but I would like to acknowledge the fact that Georgia has been a leader in what people are asking for now, criminal justice reform. Over the last decade, Georgia has been a leader in the nation in that area. We have, put a priority on getting people rehabilitated and back into the workforce and not having a Scarlet letter for life if you make a mistake. We’ve, we’ve said in Georgia, we want to get people off of drugs and out of a life of crime, and we want to get people educated and employed. I think that’s a good thing. And, you know, we don’t want to warehouse people in jail and throw away the key. We want to get people rehabilitated. Now, folks, who’ve made a decision to live a life of armed robbery and
home invasion, and rape and murder and gun crimes. Yeah, they need to be locked up . But yeah, there are many, first time offenders, sadly people who’ve come, back and are young veterans who, you know, were suffering from a disruption in their life. We have a veterans court in Gwinnett, as a result of that criminal justice reform that we’re helping young veterans who’ve come back and kind of lost their way in addiction and, and other pain, and made some bad choices. So DUI court, veterans court, mental health court, intervention in a way that turns around, people. That’s been, something that’s been good, you know Georgia started as a debtor’s colony. We’ve always believed in a second chance and I think we need to realize our…
Rico: [00:23:19] Also Georgia has a lot of history and other things as well.
Matt: [00:23:24] Well, Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King is from here, the black community and the Christian community in Georgia produced Martin Luther King. And so Georgia has some very special things. We’re now a leader in population and economy. We need to step up to the plate and lead the way in the country on criminal justice reform and other things.
Rico: [00:23:44] So what would you? So then Matt I, listen, I come from New York. So moving down here in ’95, South of the Mason Dixon line, if you will. It’s an old term right, now most people won’t know that I guess. But you know, it is different. If I go out into, and good people, I’m not saying bad people, good people, good ways. But there’s certainly different points of views depending where you go in the state. So not everything is, as good as, as it needs to be, right? That’s all be honest about that.
Matt: [00:24:13] Right, and Rico, let me say on that, my metric, whether you’re in Americus Georgia, or Albany Georgia, or Macon, or here in Gwinnett County. I think every black parent and grandparent, they want their young people to have a diploma, to have career opportunities, to have money in the bank, to be treated fairly. Those are things I think that we can agree on across racial lines, and make sure that the American dream is alive and well in Georgia. But my metric is those. Let’s get our young people educated, have bright employment opportunity, and make sure that they have access to the American dream and they’re not barriers there. Look around Atlanta, we even have more community banks with black entrepreneurs leading the way and, and, if you look at Metro city bank at Verse Intercontinental bank you have some Asian and Indian banks, we even got a Chinese, a new bank and John’s Creek. We need to have a black…
Rico: [00:25:11] There’s Loyal Trust Bank, yeah.
Matt: [00:25:12] That’s right.
Rico: [00:25:13] Yeah. And I, and I agree with you. I mean, I think economically anyone that moves up into the middle class is always better. Because any, any group group of people that do that. I mean, it goes back, I could go back to, you know, we could do the history lesson or go back to the Irish, to Germany, the Italian. Go back to the Asians that came to this country from a
variety of countries, whether it was Laos, Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam. And how a lot of them moved up the ladder. The Latinos that came here that, hard workers, all of them. It seems to be immigrants are always hard workers. There’s a reason why they took the danger and the things to be able to come here because they want to succeed. So there’s a lot to be said about that, right?
Matt: [00:25:58] Here’s, here’s a good example about immigrants. The pharmacy in the neighborhood where that Wendy’s was where the shooting and then the ensuing civil unrest happened, the pharmacy in that neighborhood was started by an immigrant gentlemen from Swanee who invested his life work and life savings down there in that neighborhood, which is near where the brave stadium was where Georgia state has taken over. He had some confidence on that neighborhood, but there are a lot of senior citizens there who are homebound, they deliver a lot of those prescriptions, those senior citizens in need. There are schools there. It is tragic to have all hell breaking loose in that neighborhood that was on the upswing and revitalizing. That has a lot of people who’ve lived there their whole life, and now they’re senior citizens. You’ve got kids in school, George Washington Carver is the high school there. We need to restore safety to communities, ASAP.
Rico: [00:26:55] So then what would you do, Matt? As far as, and then let’s, let’s move on to some other issues too, but just to, because it’s, it’s the thing that’s out there. What would you do to reform police? What would be legislation that would be out there? You know, there’s the, there’s several proposals out there as far as, stopping choke holds and, and, limiting liability so that people can sue the police and stuff like that. What would you do? What would be the specific reforms that you’d like to see go in?
Matt: [00:27:24] Well, I would get to the basics first. I think that the, examining police training and make sure that the new officers who are coming in the Police Academy are getting best management practices of being effective law enforcement and also not having unnecessary escalation. I think that, community policing works. So I think having a recruitment effort of letting middle school and high school students in Clayton County and Dekalb County and Fulton County inside the perimeter know that you have a bright future, both on your, your education as well as employment. If you want to devote your career to being in law enforcement in your own community and making things better in your own community, everybody wants free college. You can go to technical school, do criminal justice there, or get a two year degree for a very low cost and then go to a four year college in Georgia for criminal justice, again at very low costs. And then graduate and be a community police officer in Atlanta and have a bright future. And I think letting kids know that in Georgia, we respect law enforcement and that we support law enforcement and young people in our diverse, young generation have a bright future in law enforcement and we ought to be on the same side. So I think the police training, recruitment. Also little things like, Bruce Lavelle reminded me of the CIB community improvement district. They had an idea about cops, cops in the neighborhood program where housing is an issue. You mentioned the salary of police officers, as we were talking earlier is low. And that pushes a lot of police officers to go moonlight in second or third jobs, which stresses them out when
they’re back on the job as a police officer. Housing, if we can get some affordable housing for law enforcement officers to live in the communities that they police and, be integral parts of the community. Many are already, but housing costs in Atlanta has really sort of disrupted. I, as I’m out in neighborhoods across the 48 Senate District, I see police cars for multiple jurisdictions. And if we could, make sure that, the law enforcement officers are in the community and visible and tied in with their own community where they’re policing. I think that’ll help a lot. But more than anything else, I think we need to have the message that America is a republic and a democracy. Things don’t work in America for people to be out of work and out of school. We need to get things back where our kids are learning and our businesses are functioning fully because bad things are happening. Some of them we needed to address. But when I, you mentioned, your background in New York, I was very disturbed to see what’s happening in New York this week, in terms of violence, gratuitous violence. That is not helping anything for people to be hitting police officers over the head with bats. And, and it raises the question, who’s giving out those bats? I’ve seen some pictures of people dropping pallets off of bricks during a protest.
Rico: [00:30:23] I don’t know about that part of it. Yeah, I mean, there’s all sorts of things on the web and stuff and social media that, are they real are they not. I mean, it’s just, it’s a variety of things. And I’m not saying, you know, violence, even if, if, if a group is angry because of what’s going on, there is no reason in the world. I don’t care. There’s no reason to throw a Molotov cocktail into an empty police car. There’s no reason to be burning a Wendy’s down. There’s just no reason for any of that violence. It’s just, it, it doesn’t help the cause. And it changes, it does change the narrative and to a bad way, right? Because everyone says, Oh, that changes the narrative when you discuss that. You don’t what, it has to be discussed because it’s wrong. How do we teach our kids? I teach my kids right and wrong. Now, you know, I don’t know about other people, but if it’s wrong to throw a Molotov cocktail into a car, it’s wrong. You just don’t drive by and throw one in there. Even if it’s empty. It’s just like, I can never understand that. But, I agree with you. I mean, we have to, it’s a cultural thing too, and we have to really observe all of that and really come, at least move down the road a little bit right? Everything you’ve said, it makes sense to, you know, to that. And we do need to way change the way some of the police are trained I guess. Let’s move on to some other issues we are getting towards the end of our time together. So I do want to make sure we hit a few things.
Matt: [00:31:52] Sure. And Rico, let me just say, Gwinnett schools. Gwinnett police that’s who polices Peachtree Corners? Gwinnett Police, Gwinnett Police, I’ve done ride alongs through leadership Gwinnett and pay attention to what’s going on in my local. Who’s gonna fight for the budget gaps that are needed when, we need funding as well as public policy changes, for Gwinnett Police and, and for our local police departments. I want to be an effective advocate. That’s the stakes in the State Senate race. Who can go down there and get things done for our local law enforcement, our local schools, transportation solutions, healthcare. Washington is not going to solve our healthcare. We can’t just punt and say Medicaid is going to take it over. We need to make sure that we have jobs and insurance and good health care networks here in Georgia. No one’s gonna do it for us. We’ve got to go, send an advocate from our community down there to get good things done on those basic needs.
Rico: [00:32:47] Okay. Good to hear. The other issues you’ve been talking about, I think on the campaign trail has been, nonpartisan, County officer’s nonpartisan term limits. Do you think State Senate should be term limited?
Matt: [00:33:02] Yes. I think if you can’t go get good things done in eight years, pass the baton to somebody else who could do it. Now, when you get elected, I think you oughta serve out your term, and, you know, not be looking at some other higher office. You need to be focused on doing a good job in a short amount of time and then go live under the laws that you make. That’s the principle of having nonpartisan and term limited elections. All of the cities in the 48 Senate district have nonpartisan municipal elections and it works great. Gwinnett County, we now have a multi billion dollar County budget, a multibillion dollar school budget, and of course in Fulton County, they have an equally large school and County budget. Their population is over a million we’re right at a million in Gwinnett. I think having more people having a seat at the table with this high population and budget is a good thing. I think, having citizen legislators and not partisan career politicians, I think that would be a good improvement. Our cities are already doing it and let’s pass it on to our counties. Now this is not a new issue for me. I’ve been an advocate for this in the past, I was the Republican party lawyer, as well as, the Gwinnett County bar association president. And I got called upon, from having served in those two roles to advocate for the master court and the probate court, in Gwinnett to go nonpartisan, six or seven years ago, representative Chuck F Thracian, was a leader in that initiative. Those offices went nonpartisan years ago. I got to go to the bill signing. I’ve got the, the bill signing pen from Governor Deal and those nonpartisan offices have worked well since then, as well as our cities being nonpartisan. And listen, I’m a bipartisan problem solver. I’m a fiscal conservative and, and proud to be a Republican, but I want to reach out to Democrats and Independents and get some good public policy that will serve our community in our state. That’s what I’m all about.
Rico: [00:34:55] Cool. The, let’s get back, okay. And by the way, if anyone notices, there has been some interruption of our Facebook live stream, so you’ll get this full version, after, after the show. So what, you know, let’s. Let’s talk a bit about, you know, term limits is one thing. Yes, we want to make sure that, we have new, new, fresh people in place instead of someone in there 20 years, let’s say. Cause that’s having people in a position too long. There’s something to be said about experience, but there’s also something to be said about, the power structure. When you have people in place for 20 or 30 years in the same seat, right. It becomes a bit of a, contrary to growth if you will. But ethics, ethics is the other issue, that you discuss. Ethics is very tough issue. It’s tough to be self regulated. It’s tough for a body, a State Senator, a state house to have their own ethics committee. And they’re going to self regulate themselves. That’s a bit of an issue. I don’t know how well that can be done. And it seems like it almost never can be done well, I’ve never seen it yet that way. How, how do you think you can do it differently?
Matt: [00:36:06] Sure. And I put this in there just to let folks know in the Senate district, that I think that, state government and the State Senate ought to serve the people and that ought to be the focus and we ought to have transparency in government. And, we need to have, you
know, a vibrant system where everybody knows what’s going on at the Capitol. Now, the state ethics commissioner is across the street from the Capitol, the house and Senate have their own ethics committees. But what I’m talking about is the state ethics commission, I want to make sure they have the resources and the infrastructure to handle their matters promptly. There was just so much, so much turnover over the course of a decade in that office. So we’ve now got a good former prosecutor in there. We’ve got some great lawyers and personnel in the office, and I want to make sure that they can process their cases efficiently. Just like a good district attorney’s office would. You look at Danny Porter and how well he runs things in Gwinnett. And I, I, I don’t think that their focus should be prosecuting people, but I think that they, they should have a good efficient system where they process their cases from beginning to end a lot more quickly and efficiently. And there’s a procedure to weed out the overtly political matters that get opened up versus ones where there’s an actual problem with disclosure and transparency. I’ve raised my money locally from people primarily in the Senate district, or sometimes at the Senate district. I look at races around Metro Atlanta, and you have this flood of outside money coming in and you don’t really know where it’s coming from or why it’s, you know, being spent here in Georgia. But I want to make sure that the State Senate has its focus on serving the people in their districts and there’s transparency and ethics in government public service and citizen, legislators. That’s what we need down there at the Capitol and transparency and I believe strongly in that. My dad retired a couple years ago from being a DA in the Southwestern circuit. I worked at the DA’s office in law school. I drove up to Madison County every Friday in my last year in law school and did prosecution there so I’m familiar with that whole process of how a prosecutor’s office works. And although they’re not, I don’t want them to be criminal, I do want them to have the resources, the personnel, the procedures in place to be efficient and effective and make sure that we match up with our population. Georgia is going to be almost a top five state after the census. We’ve been number one in jobs. We’re almost the top five state. We need to overhaul everything in state government and make sure that we’re delivering that kind of excellence to our citizens.
Rico: [00:38:38] Excellent. We are at the end of our time together. So usually what I do, Matt and we’ve done this before, is that I’ll have the candidate ask for the vote. So you have about two minutes. Give us why Matt Reeves should be the State Senate rep for district 48.
Matt: [00:38:58] Peachtree Corners, you are blessed to have some great elected officials. Mayor Mason, the city council, first lady mrs. Mayor, Debbie Mason, Mary Kay Murphy school board representative, Ben Coux, formally, Linette Howard. You’ve got a great bunch of local elected officials. I want to, augment that excellence down at the State Capitol and effectively be an advocate for Peachtree Corners down there. Bi-partisan problem solving, you look at the Simpsonwood matter where I represented the church. I worked closely with UPCCA that’s how I met Scott Hilton years ago. I worked with the elected officials at the city and the County went to probate court, superior court, appellate court. But problem solved along the way in a way that, that property is now a park rather than not a controversy that worries everybody. So, that’s a good example of what I’ve done out here and the history of the last 17 years as a business and real estate litigation lawyer. And I’ve also cared about the community. I’ve been actively involved
in things like the Duluth parks board, the Gwinnett County education, SPLOST renewal campaign, rotary and other civic matters. I care about the future of our community, just like you do. I want to be an effective advocate for Peachtree Corners, Berkeley Lake, Duluth, and other communities down in the State Senate. I’d be honored to earn your support. Matt Reeves for Senate is my website. Matt Reeves for State Senate on Facebook and, @MattReevesGA on Twitter. Let me hear from you (770) 236-9768 is my number. Call me anytime. I’d love to get to hear about you and your perspective on how Peachtree Corners can be an excellent community through advocacy in the state Senate over the next two years. Thank you.
Rico: [00:40:40] Excellent, Matt. Thank you. I appreciate you coming on. Stay with me while we log off, but everyone, thank you for listening in. Matt Reeves candidate, Republican candidate for State Senate district 48. That represents, that represent Peachtree corners among other cities within that State Senate district. So that’s coming up, November 3rd is the election. There’s early voting. That’s going to be happening obviously for that, I believe
Matt: [00:41:03] October 12th
Rico: [00:41:05] October 12th.
Matt: [00:41:06] That’s early voting
Rico: [00:41:08] Well, okay. Right. The election if you deemed to go in the, November third is, is the it’s but yeah. October 12th. So check out the, go to, you know, make sure you, you’re actually, can people register to vote yet?
Matt: [00:41:23] Absolutely. Gwinnett County board of elections, as well as secretary of state, if you’ve moved or you’re new, get registered now. Make sure there’s no surprises as you get close to the election and be prepared to either absentee vote, early vote, starting October 12th or vote in person November the third.
Rico: [00:41:43] Excellent. Thanks, Matt. I appreciate you being with us. Thank you everyone
Matt: [00:41:46] Thank you for your time.
Official drop boxes available for absentee/advance by mail ballots
Eight official ballot drop boxes are now in place across Gwinnett County to provide eligible voters with a new way to return absentee/advance by mail ballots for the June 9 Presidential Preference Primary, General Primary, and Nonpartisan Election. No postage is necessary on ballots placed in the drop boxes. The secure drop boxes are monitored by video and available 24/7 at these locations:
- Bogan Park Community Recreation Center, 2723 North Bogan Road, Buford
- Dacula Park Activity Building, 2735 Old Auburn Avenue, Dacula
- George Pierce Park Community Recreation Center, 55 Buford Highway, Suwanee
- Lenora Park Gym, 4515 Lenora Church Road, Snellville
- Lucky Shoals Park Community Recreation Center, 4651 Britt Road, Norcross
- Mountain Park Aquatic Center, 1063 Rockbridge Road, Stone Mountain
- Shorty Howell Park Activity Building, 2750 Pleasant Hill Road, Duluth
Voter Registrations and Elections Beauty P. Baldwin Building, 455 Grayson Highway, Suite 200 Lawrenceville
Multiple options to cast your ballot for the June 9 elections
Voters are not limited to Election Day to cast their ballot in the June 9 Presidential Preference Primary, General Primary, and Nonpartisan Election.
Eligible voters may vote advance in person every day, including weekends, through June 5 at the Gwinnett Voter Registrations and Elections Beauty P. Baldwin Building, located at 455 Grayson Highway in Lawrenceville. The office is open for advance voting Monday through Saturday from 8:00am to 5:00pm and Sunday from noon to 7:00pm.
Voters can also cast their ballots advance in person every day, including weekends, through June 5 at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds, located at 2405 Sugarloaf Parkway in Lawrenceville (use the Davis Road entrance) Monday through Saturday from 7:00am to 7:00pm and Sunday from noon to 7:00pm.
Satellite voting will be offered daily from Saturday, May 30 through Friday, June 5 from 7:00am to 7:00pm at four satellite locations.
- Bogan Park Community Recreation Center, 2723 North Bogan Road, Buford
- George Pierce Park Community Recreation Center, 55 Buford Highway, Suwanee
- Lenora Park Gym, 4515 Lenora Church Road, Snellville
- Lucky Shoals Park Community Recreation Center, 4651 Britt Road, Norcross
To check the status of your voter registration and see a sample ballot, visit My Voter Page at mvp.sos.ga.gov. For more information or to stay up-to-date with elections in Gwinnett, follow @GwinnettGov on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or visit GwinnettElections.com.
Lee Thompson run for Gwinnett Commission Chair [Podcast]
With the election coming closer, Rico Figliolni sits down with County Commissioner Chair Candidate Lee Thompson Jr. in this episode of Peachtree Corners Life podcast. Here, they discuss issues on transportation, affordable housing, immigration, and ethics in politics. Hear about Lee’s history in Gwinnett County and his views on where the county is going.
“I believe this is an extremely important election when we come in as a County commission in January of next year, you’re going to have five county commissioners and the longest-serving county commissioners are going to have two years tenure. I believe it’s very important that the person who’s in the chairman’s position as the leader of that commission has a good and solid understanding of local government in the issues that have to be addressed by the local government.”Lee Thompson Jr.
Topics can be listened by timestamp:
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:03:10] – Lee’s Background
[00:05:21] – Political Changes in the County
[00:09:13] – New Challenges for a County Commissioner Chair
[00:12:42] – Working with Education
[00:14:48] – Property Taxes
[00:16:07] – Re-Opening the State
[00:19:56] – Transportation
[00:22:45] – Affordable Housing
[00:25:51] – Immigration
[00:28:12] – Ethics and Transparency
[00:31:43] – Campaigning During COVID-19
[00:35:13] – Election Issues
[00:37:56] – Closing
Rico: [00:00:30] Hi everyone, this is Rico Figliolini host of Peachtree Corners Life. I appreciate you guys joining us in the city of Peachtree Corners. We’re doing our podcast as usual, socially safe. Not in the studio that we normally would be like Atlanta Tech Park, where we’ve been doing a lot of podcasts before. COVID-19 hit. We have a special guest today. We’re going to be discussing a bit about politics in Gwinnett County, but before we get there, I do want to just say thank you to our sponsor Hargray Fiber. They’ve been a sponsor of the family of podcasts that we do not only Peachtree Corners Life and Capitalist Sage, but the other shows that we do as well. So I want to say thank you to them. You can find out more information about Hargray Fiber, which is a leading fiber optic company in the Southeast. They provide fiber cable. They’re not the cable guy, they’re not Comcast, they’re not AT&T, they’re right in your community. When they come into Peachtree Corners, or Conyers, or Valdosta, they are right in their offices there. You don’t call up an 800 number that’s going to be like somewhere in LA LA land. Your tech support’s right in your community. They’re a great place that provide not only the consumer side, but the business side, which is what HargrayFiber.com does. So check them out. They have a 90 day free internet connection available, and also some tools that can get you online. Free tools that can help you do your work online in teleworking. If you’re getting challenges somewhere else, they’re the guys to go to. HargrayFiber.com so check them out. Now to our guest, Lee Thompson. Lee, welcome.
Lee: [00:02:08] Thank you very much. I appreciate you having me.
Rico: [00:02:10] I appreciate you coming out. I know, coming out, see? Everyone’s, everyone’s out here doing campaigning in the virtual world, right?
Lee: [00:02:20] I walked down the hall to another room, so.
Rico: [00:02:23] That’s funny. They set you up and you could just keep going. Was it Biden that was doing the virtual tour. I was wondering how he was going to do that from the basement, but it’s amazing. Everyone’s Zooming. Is that, that’s a new thing for you or not?
Lee: [00:02:42] Well, it certainly was before this pandemic started. But, now that we’ve been doing that, I’ve been, I think in three or four city council meetings that way. I’ve been in three or four forums that way. So I’ve done it quite a bit now.
Rico: [00:02:56] Cool. So for those that don’t know Lee Thompson. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about you? Obviously I think there’s six or seven democratic candidates running in the primary.
Lee: [00:03:08] Five Democrats and three Republicans,
Rico: [00:03:10] Okay five Democrats, okay, cool. So tell us a little bit about yourself and your background and stuff.
Lee: [00:03:16] Sure. I’m a lifelong resident of Gwinnett County. Grew up in Lawrenceville, attended Central Gwinnett High School, after that I obtained a degree, undergraduate degree from Mercer University. I have a law degree from the University of Georgia Law School. I have lived in Lawrenceville throughout my life and have practiced law in Lawrenceville since 1981. I started practicing law in 1981. For the vast majority of that time, our firm has been specialists in local government law. I’ve been the city attorney for the city of Sugar Hill, the City of Duluth, City of Grace, City of Lawrenceville. We have in the past also served for Snellville and the city of Auburn. And we also represent the Gwinnett County Board of Education and we’ve represented that entity since 1983. And so we’ve seen a lot of changes over the years. And so, that’s what I’ve done for a living my entire career. I’m also active in the community. I was actually in the first class of Leadership Gwinnett, that was in 1985 and 1986. I was in my late twenties and was selected to that class of Leadership Gwinnett. I have been active in the Democratic party. I’ve been on the executive committee of the Gwinnett Democratic party for over 30 years. I’ve been on the state Democratic party committee for over 20 years. And I’ve been in a number of civic organizations, I actually was one of the founding members of the Gwinnett Tech Foundation and was also a founding member of the Central Gwinnett Cluster Foundation and serve on the board of directors of the Justice Center of Atlanta. Which is a nonprofit organization that provides mediation service and provides mediation training for people all over the United States.
Rico: [00:05:21] And that’s interesting. I mean, the democratic, I mean, me coming from New York it’s all Democrats up in the city of New York. Unless you were on Staten Island, Long Island, and then there were Republicans. So there was never a Republican to be found in the boroughs, right? And when I moved down here in ’95, being a Democrat in Gwinnett County, you are lonesome, we never crossed paths that way. I ended up becoming a Reagan Republican or Reagan Democrat, however they call it. But the Republican party for the most part was what the county ran on right? During the early, I mean, most of the years, but when I moved here in ’95, it seemed that way.
Lee: [00:06:04] Well, certainly since ’95 that has been true. Prior to that, actually when I was in college and then a young lawyer in politics, there were actually a lot of Democrats in office here in Gwinnett County. I actually was the campaign manager for Bartow Jenkins, who was the last Democrat to serve on the Gwinnett County Commission before Ben Ku and Marlene Foskey were elected last year. I was his campaign manager. I also worked on the campaign staff of Ed Jenkins, who was a Democratic Congressman who represented the County up until, I believe it was 1992. The Republicans swept most of the County offices in 1984. And so, since that time, most of the County wide offices have been held by Republicans.
Rico: [00:06:53] I think there was a Gingrich along that time maybe, right? Yeah, but politics has changed in, in the County. I mean, I’ve seen it since ’95 since I moved here. Urbanized, Gwinnett has become more urbanized, right? A lot more minorities. Very different from the way it was in the late, mid, late nineties, I think, more Democratic. Well at least what democratic leaning, maybe not democratic voters, but we’re getting there, it seems right. It’s taken a couple of decades. Are you, are you finding it easier to meet more Democrats along the way? Different
types of Democrats? You know, there’s Asians, there’s African-Americans. I mean, it’s a big potpourri of ethnicity in Gwinnett County, right?
Lee: [00:07:49] It is, and definitely, I mean I’ve seen the entire change. I actually grew up in Gwinnett County, so I was going to school in the seventies in Gwinnett County when it was basically a rural community. My grandparents lived down on Pleasant Hill road, which at that time had a lot of farms and even some dairies on it. And so, I’ve seen it change from a rural community to a suburban community now to an urban community. It’s become much more diverse. It’s one of the most diverse counties in the United States at this point. And that’s, that’s been a very good thing. And it has been good for the Democratic party. The Democratic party has grown in the last few years. I was actually elected as state representative in 2008 when President Obama got elected. I ran against the three-term incumbent here in Marksville, was able to win that seat in 2008. I then lost it in 2010 when the Republicans swept in statewide races. But then have remained active in the party. And I’ve seen actually they split my old seat up into six different districts in the Lawrenceville area. And I was happy that by this last 2018 election, four of those six seats that have parts of my old district are now held by Democrats.
Rico: [00:09:13] Wow. It has changed a lot it seems. So politics. Politics has changed a bit too, right? Since even a decade ago. I mean, we’re more concerned about transportation coming in. I’ve seen more challenges on that Marta wants to be able to come in, although it was recently defeated. COVID-19 has also opened up a lot of different other challenges as well. So what do you find with, you know, what challenges do you think a County chairman will have coming into office considering reduced revenue that’s happening because of COVID-19 and in health issues. So what challenges will an elected official County Commissioner, County Chair face when they take office?
Lee: [00:10:03] Well, they’re going to face a lot of, of issues. They’re going to face the issues that they already had, which are transportation, how to deal with transportation, how to deal with land use planning and infrastructure, and all of the issues that were already there. But they’re now going to be facing that, having to deal with probably substantially reduced revenues. One of the things that we’ve already seen is the effect on businesses. Obviously with restaurants being closed with a number of retail businesses being closed, that we’ve had a reduction in sales tax revenue. And that sales tax revenue is probably going to continue to be reduced. Sales tax revenue in Gwinnett County is mainly used for those special purpose local option sales tax to fund capital projects. So what is probably going to happen is we’re probably going to have to see how long that reduced sales tax revenue goes on. And see if there’s going to be enough money to fund the projects that were planned out for this loss in the last referendum and see if we’re not able to fund those projects, which projects are we going to put priority on and which projects are going to have to be delayed or which projects where we might have to come up with a different funding source. We also really don’t know yet how this is going to affect other revenue sources. When I was in the state legislature I went in in January of 2009, a few months after the economic collapse of 2008. And I found at that time the state was often trying to balance the budget by cutting funds that it was providing the local governments. And so we
don’t, the state hasn’t even adopted its budget for the coming fiscal year, which starts July one. So we don’t have any idea if the state is going to be cutting back the County funds. And so we’ll just have to kind of wait and see the ultimate effect this has. But obviously it’s going to change planning and we’re going to have to be very strategic in our financial planning next year. Once we see how much we are actually affected by this.
Rico: [00:12:09] I think I just heard something about the governor’s office saying to all the departments about cutting back 15% across the board. Something along those lines.
Lee: [00:12:18] That’s correct. I think they sent out a memo to ask them to cut their budgets about 14%.
Rico: [00:12:23] Across the board, no matter.
Lee: [00:12:27] When they had originally asked them to cut a 6% or 4% I believe it was earlier, there were certain places that were exempted like education and other areas. As I understand it from this last memo, there are no exemptions.
Rico: [00:12:42] So how does the County work hand in hand with education, for example, and other areas within the County? Obviously school kids are home. They’re home through the summer. They should be coming back in the Fall if things go well. School buses have to run school lunches. There’s other services that the County provides separate. I mean, obviously you’re not, County Commission doesn’t deal with the school board per se. But there’s auxiliary services that have to be provided that the County coordinates right? With school system, with the health department.
Lee: [00:13:16] They do. And of course, as I said, our firm represents the Gwinnett County Board of Education. So we see it from the education side and obviously the decisions about policy and how to operate schools are all done by a separate elected body separate than the County Commision. They’re done by the school board and the superintendent of schools. But yes, there’s coordination that has to go on between transportation. Transportation projects that provide intersection improvements and sidewalk improvements and those types of things around schools. And obviously, going on now, the school system has continued to deliver lunches despite the fact that it has children who are not in school. For your title one schools they have continued to provide lunches to those individuals. When we get to the summer and they may not have those lunches or if we face something in the fall where people may not be able to go back to school, that’s obviously an issue that we all have to deal with and all that. If you, I, I’m very close, my office is very close to the Lawrenceville co-op. They give out food on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. During the week of spring break, the line from the Lawrenceville co-op extended back over two blocks of people waiting to get in to pick up food that week. So that’s a real issue where we have to deal with our social services and our health and human resources. Divisions of the County have to step in and try and help on some of those issues.
Rico: [00:14:48] And property taxes is another issue too I’d imagine. Property tax has to be paid towards the end of the year and stuff. Do you think that there may be challenges there? Are we looking at not a second wave of, well, second wave of economic impact even, but we’re looking at the County have challenges there then? Because that would affect budget as well.
Lee: [00:15:12] It would. And we could be looking at that. I think it may be a little bit too early to tell that for sure. It’s going to, we’re going to have to see how drastic this economic downturn is from the virus. If it lasts long enough and we begin to have people having evictions, we begin to have people moving out of buildings and leaving the buildings vacant. All of those things obviously can have a downturn on property values and can affect property taxes. I don’t know if we’ll see it so much this year in the property taxes, and because those property values were really set at the beginning of the year in January. Unless we see people who are not able to pay their bills, we may see Gwinnett County actually has a very high collection rate on their property tax bill. So it’ll be interesting to see if that goes down this fall when, when those property taxes actually come to you.
Rico: [00:16:07] Come, when, Governor Kemp back in, I think it was April 21st, somewhere around there, mid April, decided to start opening up the state slowly. I don’t know if it was slowly, but it was announced that it’s going to open up. The rules, the executive order, he placed, said sure, salons. He has salons, nail places that can open up, but there were no obviously anyone that looked at that and looked at the CDC guidance would be like, you can’t open these things up. I know that you were sort of opposed to the opening up of the state at that point. How do you, how do you see it coming along now? I mean, are you still, how do you feel about the opening and the continued opening right now? Summer camps, for example, not overnight camps, but summer camps are going to be allowed. The movement to 10 persons in a group and stuff like that. How do you see that affecting Gwinnett County? Are you for that? Are you, you know, what’s your take on that?
Lee: [00:17:09] I’m still concerned about it. I had two problems when Governors Kemp did that and put out a short statement about that when he did it. The first was that I thought it was a little bit too early for some of the reasons you just cited. There were some obvious businesses in there that you really couldn’t keep social distancing that it was difficult for them to abide by the guidelines. Secondly, the issue of that, every time the governor has put out an order, he’s preempted any kind of local action. So, in other words, if the city of Atlanta wants to do something differently, or Gwinnett County, a County of almost a million people, thinks it needs to have different rules than a County in South Georgia that has 20,000 people, he preempted any ability to do that. And I found that disturbing. You know, I hope we’re not going to see an uptick and the second wave of the virus. I think it’s a little bit too early to see to know that. I have been impressed by people, I think showing common sense. And a lot of people just saying, you know, I’m not comfortable going in and sitting in a restaurant right now. I’m still going to pick up, or I’m not comfortable going to a particular area. And the people who have opened up at least, you know, hair salons, one person salons where they say, okay, I’ll take one person at a time. I’ll use disposable capes, I’ll disinfect everything after this person leaves. Everybody wears masks and
gloves while they’re in here, you know, so I have been pleasantly surprised by some of the common sense I’ve seen of people trying to make sure that they apply common sense to the openings that they have done.
Rico: [00:19:04] That’s interesting. I’ve been out there a little bit. I’ve been doing a lot of Instacart ordering, so costco deliveries, Publix delivery. Well, not Ingles. But when I do go out there though, it’s interesting the mix of different things, right? I see a lot of people with masks, and then at some places you see no one wear masks. So I just, you know, and I think my fear is that the longer we do this, the more lax people become. Because, you know, that’s just the nature of, I think people, right?
Lee: [00:19:38] So I would agree with your comments. I’ve seen the same thing. We’ve, when we have people come into our office, we still have our doors locked. We let people come in as they need to for a specific, to sign some papers or something. We wear a mask. We’ve asked people to wear a mask. Some people do, some people don’t. So yeah.
Rico: [00:19:56] You know, and moving forward, obviously I think business has to start moving at some point. Intelligently yes. Um, because we, people need to make money. They have to pay their bills. I think everyone starts feeling the hurt at some point. Individuals as well as business owners. And also opportunities have been found because some people figure they don’t need that 10,000 square foot office. They could use 2,000 square feet and everyone could be, you know, out there doing zooming you know and stuff. That could have a bad effect on commercial real estate in the country. You know, there’s that. There’s also, you know, transportation. I’m sure Marta is going to come back up again. I don’t know when the cycle is, maybe even in November if there’s something on the ballot, I guess. How do you feel about Marta coming back and, or transportation along those lines? Is that something you would be welcoming and how would that be affected? You know, how can we do that? Maybe with even limited budgets?
Lee: [00:21:07] Yes, it’s something I would actually welcome. I’ve actually lived here long enough that I’ve voted for the Marta referendum in 1990 when it came along. It was defeated in 1990. I voted for Marta referendum last year when the referendum came out, I think it needs to be put back on the ballot. I think it was unfortunate that it was put on the March ballot rather than the November ballot, that the last vote, I think that was done for purely partisan politics. And that was a sad thing. It is something that we need. We need public transportation, and we need to do it because what that referendum actually provides is a 1 cent sales tax that’s going to last for about 30 years. That will provide a guaranteed funding mechanism for transportation and we might differ a little bit on the plans and which plan is a better plan and what we should have. I hope that we don’t try and wait for the perfect plan before we get that funding source in place because we need to put the funding source in place and get some type of public transportation going in this County. I’ve, when I was a state representative, I also supported the T Splice bill. It wasn’t a perfect bill, I didn’t like it, but I voted for it and I’d hoped the County would vote for it in 2010 unfortunately we didn’t. And now we saw it was another 10 years
before we got anything else on the referendum. So the longer we put these things off, the less money we have going towards transportation over the years.
Rico: [00:22:45] I agree with you to a degree. I mean the T Splice is a little different probably because you can always adjust that budget where that money goes to some degree, whereas the larger transportation plan might be different, right? Heavy rail versus light rail? You know, where are you going to put the transportation hubs? I mean, some of those things can be decided later, obviously, but there’s always a plan that people look at initially. I think that was why that plan failed. As well as being politically put into the wrong month to be voted on. So I agree with you there. That just killed it. They just, that was just dumb. But it was made on purpose to be defeated I think at that point. But anyway, you know, COVID-19 is actually qualifying everything we talked about now. Transportation, are we going to be doing that type of thing? How do we continue development, you know, and providing affordable housing? I’m assuming that, you know, as any Democrat, I don’t know if you’re progressive or more conservative, but how do you feel about affordable housing when it comes to further development in the County? Do you feel that it has to be regulated in there, incentivized? How do you feel about that as far as people being able to afford to live in a place near where they’re working?
Lee: [00:24:09] Well, I think it is a demand that we have to respond to in the County, and it should be a high priority of providing affordable housing and work force housing. I’ve actually been involved in a project in downtown Lawrenceville as the city attorney, that I think provided a good example of how we might do some things. The city of Lawrenceville took about 30 acres near its center and is actually redeveloping that for a number of mixed uses. It’s apartments, condominiums, single family, retail, restaurants. As part of that the development actually wiped out some old public housing that was built in the fifties and sixties. And what Lawrenceville did was part of that plan is take part of the money that came from the development of that. And we actually built a, I think they lost 30 some odd units in public housing. They actually built 40 some odd units of new housing, and relocated those people as part of the project. They also have several projects that their housing authority has done where they’ve been mixing projects where there’s affordable, supplemented housing being mixed in with regular market rate housing. And so there are a lot of creative ways to do this. And I think we’ve got to continue to look at those creative ways, engage the private sector in doing that, and work along with our public sector and our housing authorities and our other authorities that we have that can provide the type of housing we need.
Rico: [00:25:51] Okay. What about immigration and the policies that are right now in place, like programs like 287G and you know, the impact that has on the immigrant population. How do you, where do you stand on that issue?
Lee: [00:26:07] I think that’s a bad program. I actually put out a, you can go to my website and my Facebook page. I think I actually put something up on Facebook in like August of last year when they were having some of the hearings and discussion about that. That is a program that’s
bad for a couple of reasons. Number one, it’s bad economically. We spend about $3 million a year on that program and we don’t get any substantial return from it, I think. And the second is, it’s bad from a psychological standpoint. It sends a bad message to our immigrant community in saying that I think it leads to profiling. I think it leads to a negative feeling of the immigrant community that they’re being discriminated against, and I think they are being very often as a result of that program. And, so I think we need to get rid of the program. I think we also need to make sure that the programs that were put into effect in Gwinnett County are welcoming and inclusive programs. And I can actually tell you a story. When I was a state representative back in 2009 and 2010, I actually got complaints about some of law enforcement running roadblocks near churches that were having Spanish mass or a Haitian community. And I think that was a direct result of 287G types of programs back at as long ago as 10, 12 years ago.
Rico: [00:27:37] Wow. I know a lot of the, I’ve interviewed, I think two sheriffs, candidates that are running for Gwinnett County. They both obviously want to take, you know, stop the 287 G program.
Lee: [00:27:49] And I would say the sheriff has the most control over that program. And so I think electing one of these good Democratic candidates we’ve got for sheriff would go a long way towards stopping that program.
Rico: [00:28:00] Do you have a particular candidate that you favor?
Lee: [00:28:03] I actually do. You can check their financial records and see which one I gave money to.
Rico: [00:28:12] Alright, sounds good. Talking about financial records, we’re heading towards the end of our time together. So I want to take it on ethics and transparency, which is on your website. And, you know, Gwinnett County government for a long time, I’m sure. I was on the planning commission for three years, I think, under Burton, when he was commissioner representing this area. And, although I never was personally involved or seen any ethics issues, you know, you always heard things. You know, that might’ve fell along the border a little bit of like, you know, someone rezoning a place, a hundred acres then flipping the property to a developer, all of a sudden that’s going to develop that. So a lot of farmers became millionaires over in the early nineties and late eighties, even going into the late nineties, a little bit because of things like that. And there were, I’m sure there was even one County commissioner, I won’t name them, that was connected directly to developers and ended up having to give up a seat and was prosecuted at some point. But, you know, things like that happen in politics. I don’t think anyone’s led to think things like that doesn’t, you know, doesn’t happen on a regular basis. What would you change? So then there would be more transparency and more honesty maybe brought to the process. What could we do there?
Lee: [00:29:42] Sure. Well, the first thing is you need to enforce the rules that exist. There are ethics rules that exist for both politicians to disclose their personal financial disclosure
statements and who’s giving them campaign contributions. All those things. People need to comply with those. They need to file them on a timely basis and they need to file them and be open about that. Second thing is we actually need to, I believe, revise our internal processes in the County about how zonings are handled. One of the things that the ethics statutes say is that if somebody is an applicant in a zoning, they’re supposed to disclose whether they’ve given campaign contributions to someone within a certain time period. Well, if you come up and you’re going to buy a piece of property and rezone it and you put it in an LLC, that’s never existed before. Never owns anything other than that piece of property, obviously you’ve never given any campaign contributions, but it can be owned by five people who have given lots of campaign contributions. That’s circumventing those rules and regulations. And we just need to, and that would be very simple to just make you disclose certain things when you file applications, make sure you know who the applicant is, make sure you know who the owner is. Make sure you have the types of disclosure that needs to be done, and so I would certainly push for those types of rules changes in our zoning process.
Rico: [00:31:08] Is that something that has to be voted on or is that something the County Commission Chair can across the board like an executive order? Can you actually do that yourself without any?
Lee: [00:31:19] I could not do that by myself. I would have to have a majority of the County commission agreed to change the regulations about that.
Rico: [00:31:25] Okay. Well, there’s a couple of Progressive’s I think on the County commission now, right? It should be easier maybe.
Lee: [00:31:31] Well, we certainly have two Democrats on there already. So the, you know, the hope is we’ll have five Democrats next year when we come into session in September, I mean in January.
Rico: [00:31:43] Right, right. Alright. I don’t have a problem with that necessarily, but although some of my listeners will be a bit problematic with that. COVID-19 has changed the way politics works. So let’s talk a little bit just quickly about that, how you’ve been campaigning, because it’s like you’re not a, I mean, even still now, I don’t think you could go out in really more than 10 people, I guess. So how are you campaigning? How is that process working for you now?
Lee: [00:32:14] Well, it’s been a very interesting process. We came up with the campaign plan really before the first of the year last fall, and about eight weeks ago, we just said, well, this isn’t going to work out. So, because it involved a lot of door to door, knocking on doors, having meets and greets in neighborhoods, doing fundraising at gatherings. And in fact, I think the last event I had like that was over in Peachtree Corners. I had an event back in February, and I think that was about the time the virus hit a week or two after that.
Rico: [00:32:47] Right. That was when it was growing, I think.
Lee: [00:32:49] That’s right. We started shutting things down. So, it’s really shifted the campaign. We’ve had to do a lot of telephone work, had to do, we’re sending out texts, doing a lot of social media. Putting things on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and we’re sending mailer pieces out.
Rico: [00:33:11] And you’re doing a lot of virtual, I’ve noticed that, doing a lot of virtual candidate forums organized, which is pretty good. Organized, like one of them was organized by the Asian American advocacy fund, another one by the Gwinnett African-American caucus.
Lee: [00:33:25] Correct.
Rico: [00:33:26] Really niche. I mean, social media allows you to actually be able to niche down some of these things and reach certain segments of the population better, I think.
Lee: [00:33:34] And that has been fascinating and is actually, when you say that, I think the response to some of this has been actually better than you’ll get at a public meeting. I know we were at one virtual forum that one of the CID was doing, I think they had 160 some odd people watching at one point. We had one with the chamber of commerce this morning that lasted for about an hour and a half. The commission chair candidates, and they told us they had had between 100-200 people register for that and they expected even more to come on that. I actually participated in NAACP meeting earlier this week about virtual zoom call. I participated in the Asian American Advocacy fund forum that you were talking about last week. So I’ve participated in four or five of those types of forums and they’ve been very well received and it’s been enjoyable for the candidates to get a chance to actually talk with each other and share our views with the public.
Rico: [00:34:38] You know, I think the opportunity, maybe you can’t do the door to door handshake, which is always the best thing for a politician, to be able to do door to door because that’s really pulling out that vote and meeting people in person. But you’re right. I mean you don’t, you probably wouldn’t have gotten that as many in person visits to a forum then you can online because people would be like, I can do that. I’m here, I’m home. It’s just the zone right in there, you know? So maybe it could be good.
Lee: [00:35:06] That’s right. And then you have the same as you do with these, they get posted somewhere and people see them after the fact as well.
Rico: [00:35:13] So it’s been an interesting process with hope. And I mailed in my ballot also. So did that I think it was last week I mailed the ballot in. And hopefully what 7 million, 6, 7 million people got in the state of Georgia, got the application for the absentee ballot. I think a million of them responded, which was unusual because normally it would be a hundred thousand or something like that, be a really small number. So, it’ll be interesting to see how this is going to
all pan out and how they’re going to be able to count those ballots. So I don’t suspect we’ll know the winner for a few days.
Lee: [00:35:49] Well that’ll be interesting. In fact, there’s a lawsuit pending I saw just now that was kind of playing off the Wisconsin lawsuit as to whether ballots are going to have to be counted. Do they have to be received by seven o’clock on election day or did they just have to be postmarked?
Rico: [00:36:05] Yes, and that was the question I had now, besides the fact that there was no pre stamped or pre-metered return, which really, I mean, that’s, I think the state should have done that.
Lee: [00:36:16] I agree with you. In fact, Stacey Abrams put out a statement about that, and I put out a statement agreeing with her.
Rico: [00:36:21] It’s ridiculous that they did not do that. They printed all those valid applications and not do that? That makes no sense to me. But yes, I had the same question of, is it post marked that day or it has to be there before that day? And what if the post office gets it wrong? I mean, I’ve published Peachtree Corners magazine and I can’t tell you how sometimes every once in a while we’ll get someone say, I didn’t get that, or I got it three weeks later and it’s like, you know, I pay the rate I pay. It gets, it’s supposed to be delivered legally and officially within three days and not like a week later. So that’s what I’m wondering right now.
Lee: [00:37:04] And I think the secretary of state contends that the rule is it has to be in the election office by seven o’clock on election day. The Supreme court, when they approved the Wisconsin decision that they approved earlier this year. Actually allowed, a federal judge has said, as long as it was postmarked by the day and it came, then you still had to count it. So that’s probably going to be an issue that’s going to be argued back and forth between now and election day. This is going to be an interesting election cause I do think you’re going to have a lot of people voting by mail, which extends it out for the candidates as well. Normally you have a three week process where people are early voting. We have about a six week process cause as you say, you’ve already voted and yet we’re still more than, you know, just a month or so out from the election.
Rico: [00:37:56] Which becomes a problem though because if I voted and let’s say you know, let’s say the candidate I’d like, I’d like someone else now it’s too late. You can’t do anything about it. So you really do have to be careful the candidate, as long as you campaign, as long as you can. We’ve come at the end of our time. So normally what I ask a politician to do is give our audience, ask for the vote, tell them, give me about a minute or so, and I’ll put you on screen by yourself. Why they should be voting for you Lee.
Lee: [00:38:32] Alright, well thank you very much. So first of all, thank you for letting me do this and for having me here today. It’s been very nice, I appreciate it. I would ask for your vote for
County commission chair because I believe this is extremely important election when we come in as a County commission in January of next year, you’re going to have five County commissioners and the longest serving County commissioners are going to have two years tenure. I believe it’s very important, that the person who’s in the chairman’s position as the leader of that commission has a good and solid understanding of local government in the issues that have to be addressed by local government. I believe I’m that candidate. I have almost 40 years of experience as a local government attorney representing some of the largest cities in Gwinnett County and representing the Gwinnett County school board, the largest employer in Gwinnett County. I have a great knowledge of County and city government. I have a knowledge of zoning, which is about 50% of what County commissioners do. And I’ve done zoning throughout my career for over 30 years. I believe I have the talents and the ability to do the job and to do it well. And I also have a passion for Gwinnett County. I grew up here. I want to see our County prosper. I want to see our County become inclusive. I want to see our County become leaders in regional transportation and doing the types of thing this County needs to do. And I would appreciate your vote and your support.
Rico: [00:40:10] Thank you, Lee. Hang in there with me while we sign off. I want to thank everyone for watching Peachtree Corners Life. More podcasts to come. Elections are not over. So I might have another candidate or two from a variety of places you never know. So I appreciate you guys hanging in there with us, listening to the issues. Make your choices. If you haven’t voted yet, you need to do this. 2020 is truly an important year on so many different levels. And if you’ve been affected by COVID-19, I pray and hope that your family and you and the people you are with, that you know that things turn out well and stay strong. We’ll be with you. We’re all in this together. Thank you.
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